Seldom will you find a couple less tightly intertwined than history and science.
If one lacks a god; folly to reject their advances as a substitute for sanity.
We all know this tale with no beginning and too many ends, creator and creature dancing as sentience slowly tip-toed its way to victory.
Curiosity wanders by default; intelligence inevitably devoured the world.
So when the arcane finally arrived--manipulator of sciences if you will--that too was swallowed and digested.
Bodiless and ethereal, strung throughout our world in eternal droves, it clung to sentience like a prayer, threaded in and out of our selves beyond any fiber of being.
It was a fact of life so utterly mundane till it were known and exploited, cascades of revolutions following immediately after, a swinging cycle destined to fade and rise over and over and over and
then. A pregnant pause.
The era of magic passed, chaos and novelty settled like dust after a tornado. Life was in no short supply and all our deities had taken their thrones.
The world made sense.
This world made sense.
That is, until a new phenomena ignited the cycle to repeat itself all over again.
The air tasted something sweet, taut with a buzzing anticipation for the day's chapter. Bustling with footsteps of all kinds, the streets of Fortuniza were as crowded as they'll ever be all year.
Calculated winds carried wafts of spices and sweets to advertise the market stalls, picking up additional wisps of bubbling laughter and a distinct jingling of brass bells.
Said bells belonged to a bouncing jester, skipping along to the singing street bards and clanging silverware from heck knows where.
Sightseeing until the carnival's first show tonight, she appreciated the dangling lights above, glowing brightly even during high noon.
It was the Festival of the Weave, launching its week long celebrations of the Magic Revolution (and just how particularly favorable it was to the Citizen's Republic of Irideen).
Beyond it being an excuse for school children to flock the capital from field trips near and afar, the Festival was an annual reminder as to why the departments of sciences and arcanes should be kept separate—in spite of the fact that there really was only one arcane out there. Magic.
Magic was realized well after the sciences were, yes, but it still was a deeply mystical thing. It circulated through all known matter and psyche in what could be dubbed as nothing else but the Weave, allowing its manipulative properties to be accessed by nearly anyone.
Whether you were born with an affinity to the arts of magic, or you learned sorcery at an Arcane Academy, it could very feasibly be yours.
Such sorcery could only be either very bad, or very good, but in the case of Irideen, it turned out pretty darn well.
Well enough for there to be ample trails of sheer joy in the atmosphere to tempt the nose of an approaching figure, mysteriously cloaked in...
Oh. Oh they weren't cloaked in anything.
It was inevitable for some commotion to stir at the entirely uncommon sight of a naked Tiefling, stumbling this way and that into the more populated boulevards of the city.
Inevitable too, for the curious jester to "accidentally" bump into the wandering tiefling,
"Oop! Sorry about that, didn't see ya there!"
After deliberately walking backwards into the stranger, the jester immediately spun about to offer a handshake. "What brings-"
"There's so. Much." The purplish-red tiefling seemed to be sampling the air somehow, nodding, "So much happiness here."
Almost bizarrely unphased by the ominous voice (or was there two voices?) the jester merely high-fived her own extended hand and hopped, "Yep! Festivals tend to do that. Especially ones with a famous worldtour carnival!"
"I've never tasted so many happy souls at once before." They appeared more excited than impressed, fangs visible now.
"Oooh, you can taste souls?"
As a matter of fact, "Eat them too."
"Amazing!!" The jester laughed, intrigued. "The name's Charlie, by the way."
"Her- well, me now. This body's name was, is.." The tiefling tapped their chin, "..Calico."
"Well Cal—can I call you Cal?—you seem like a really cool gal! I'd love to give ya a tour of the festival, but.."
Charlie gestured generally to Calico's vicinity, and the tiefling looked down. Then up.
While Calico was bluntly naked, clothed in nothing but plum flesh and blue tattoos, Charlie was the polar opposite, covered head to toe in pink jester uniform. Donning a fool's cap with three dangling bells, puffy striped sleeves with matching pants, and a plaid vest ending in two long coattails trailing behind. With even more bells at the end, of course.
More notable, was Charlie's porcelain mask, painted on with darker than night eyes and a mouth, all smiling. A loose belt hung around her hips, carrying even more masks.
Calico clicked their tongue, "I didn't think to rob the cultists of their garments."
"Whoa- you some cult escapee?"
"Calico was, yes."
"Third-person speak! Fantastic." Charlie clapped, before quickly clearing her throat, "Know what else is fantastic? Clothes. That, might be a good idea yaknow?"
Calico glanced around at the passing stares, humming, "Who should we rob then?"
"Crime!" Charlie's eyes almost seemed to curve up. Wait no, they definitely did, "I do love to crime! But you know you could also just, buy some at a clothing store?"
A blank stare. Calico's hip opened to some sort of skin pocket. Finding nothing, the tissue morphed back into place seamlessly.
"Awesome." Charlie's eye holes blinked. "Er, I mean that whole morphing thing, not the broke thing. Okay, then how about a clothing drive? There's tons of those here. Free stuff!"
Of all the lands she traveled to, Irideen was definitely the most forgiving. All basic amenities were generally provided, and a citizen technically didn't need to work to get by.
Most still did anyhow.
Calico finally shrugged, straightening up, "Very well. Best not to attract any unwanted attention after all."
"Sure thing demon person!"
Charlie cartwheeled away before politely waiting for Calico to follow.
Both have gotten well used to any ongoing looks by now, but there was one who didn't even bother with a glance, rushing past them in lightfooted steps.
To most, a naked tiefling and blazing pink jester would probably warrant at least one second of "huh ok weird", but the hurrying Elf couldn't even spare that, hot on someone's trail.
Zaeli--in all technicality--had been on the hunt for years now. For whom and to where, she unfortunately was yet to learn.
But maybe here, in the capital of what many called The Land of Fortune, she'd be lucky enough to scour yet another puzzle piece.
It took some winding turns through some alleyways in the less festive blocks, but she managed to keep up, scrambling back behind a corner.
Her target--an apprehensive air Genasi with what had to be noble markings on his robe--had finally stopped moving.
Zaeli first mistook his crest with another symbol, but once she saw how.. peculiar he was acting, slapping missing person posters up every board and window possible, she resolved to help.
By spying on him. Naturally.
He put up yet another poster on the wall (easiest trail she's ever followed really), before slowly moving further down the alley.
There, he took out a key from his sleeve, inserting it into... the wall. No key hole.
He just stuck it in the brick wall.
The genasi furtively looked over his shoulder a paranoid amount of times, before turning the key, triggering something behind the wall to shift about.
An entrance mechanically opened up in the wall, and the genasi slipped through, apparently down an immediate staircase.
Now if that didn’t just scream suspicious, Zaeli didn’t know what did.
She gulped, taking a bold step forward, then aborting it.
For the thousandth time, she asked herself what she was doing, so many miles away from her origin forest.
She huffed, automatically indulging in the same mental dance for the ten thousandth time:
Think of the village. Sure, there were practically NO obvious clues left, behind but what else was she going to do? Just let them go to inflict even more pain?? Aimless as it felt, she was getting closer, she had to believe that.
She forced herself forward, slipping through the closing entrance right before it narrowed to a crack. Then shut closed.
Taking a deep breath, Zaeli quietly slunk down the dark staircase, stopping as soon as a sliver of warm light hit her shoe. Hunching down, she could just barely peer in on the circular room, along with its interesting inhabitants.
A large Bugbear... some tall and extremely lanky Tabaxi... there was the air genasi taking a seat, and at the center, a Human.
With chemical burn scars, all over his face.
"..not your greatest virtue, now is it Jacques."
Her pointed ears flicked forward, trying to focus.
"Forgive me for not having the patience needed for your convoluted secrets, when my son is still missing!"
A drawling voice--the human Zaeli figured--inhaled a thick cigar. "Your runaway son will turn up eventually. And frankly, I'd be more surprised than not if his shallow endeavors actually did get him into trouble."
The head chair creaked, "He's in no danger. Now focus."
Zaeli's brow furrowed. The boy on the missing poster wasn't a child, but he still looked young. How could you just dismiss...
"There'll be a new showing at Silstreem university today, kick-off of the festival, by Vel. He claims to have procured a big breakthrough."
"And why should we care for the scientist who blew through Perchant's grant, in favor for one of our competitors?"
The tabaxi sniffed in agreement, so, Perchant, "And for Felderwell, of all people."
"Because, this scientist--whom I've been tracking for three years--found a way to summon and stabilize.."
Another puff of smoke.
Zaeli squinted. She could've sworn she heard of that before somewhere...
In any case, the chamber was now completely quiet.
The bugbear broke it, "Stabilize?"
"Yes. To be focused. All, without a living channel." That prompted yet another stunned silence.
"So that brings us back to the showing. Proud bastard would only boast publicly like this if he were confident."
Some papers on the table rustled. Zaeli couldn't make it out for the life of her.
"There will be a complication at the event, just as he's about to perform. Perpetrating group is from Ragnar."
"After the same thing?"
Ragnar... no good could really bode from that place.
Zaeli may not have ever been there, but frankly, any imperial nation steadily gobbling up its surrounding neighbors was sure to leave a bad taste in her mouth.
Even if all the papers said they submitted willingly.
She tousled with the braids of her silver hair, standing upon realizing that their conversations were coming to a close.
Zaeli quickly backtracked to the top of the stairway, but there was nowhere else to hide or go. She heard some doorways grinding open, then one pair of footsteps stomping back up. To her.
Ahh shit shit shit shit shi
"What're you guarding for?"
Zaeli stiffened, not saying a word. It was the genasi--Jacques--again. Jacques Scepter, according to the missing poster.
"..Egh, just get out of my way." Jacques tiredly brushed past her, reopening the entrance (this time, with an actual key hole).
Zaeli withheld her sigh of relief, also stepping out. Jacques gave her an odd look, but turned to walk away.
The elf was tempted to continue following him, but froze once she spotted something fall out of his sleeve.
Heart pounding, she waited for him to leave her sight, before swiftly swiping up the black key, thank you.
Securing it in her own satchel, Zaeli took a moment to calm down, before shaking off any lingering jitters.
Where was that university?
On the corner of campus, stood the tallest building overseeing one of the larger public plazas of the capital. Cathedral-like with its magnificent spire, a wide stage jutted out from a balcony and toward a slowly gathering crowd below.
Further from the crowd and closer to the edge of a lush park, stood two slinking silhouettes, eyeing the building’s points of entry.
"They'll be regretting that cut in guard budget after this." The taller and girthier man muttered, a half-Orc, leading them both further down the tree line. "See that pomous statue o'er there?"
Kirin--a lilac hexblood--nodded back, spotting the tall sculpture beside the building they'll be breaking into. Or rather, waltzing into, seeing as how the one and only guard by the backdoor was almost dozing off.
"Don't get cocky, just cuz you got em gadgets of yours." The two casually made their way to the guard, "I'll handle this."
Kirin hung back, idly eyeing the glossy statue and little golden plaque, eloquently spelling out "Arcanist Silstreem".
Unlike much of his fellow gang members (including their sector leader, Grayson over there), Kirin actually received enough foreign education to know why there was a whole university named after this dude. He was a bit of an outlier that way, having originally come from an elite family, whereas most street gangs in this land consisted of pauper children.
Summed up, Silstreem had somehow single handedly created an orb to power the entire city, assumedly forever.
Sustainability heaven, simply put, though Kirin didn't know an awful lot about the actual arcane behind that miracle. No one did.
"Oi!" Grayson called him over, and in they went, quickly mapping out their escape routes. "S'all yours."
Kirin beelined it to the central staircase, lingering by the restrooms until he finally spotted the Satyr scientist he'd been impatiently waiting for.
Retreating from his office as expected, Vel began to make his way further upstairs. Kirin discreetly followed, through the near maze-like hallways of classrooms and labs, until Vel finally stopped at a vast set of double doors.
He fumbled with the keys before entering, none the wiser when Kirin crept out the shadows to quietly hold the door open, squeezing past to then immediately crouch behind some boxes of equipment.
"A-apologies for the wait, ahaha, w-we'll commence immediately." Vel stammered out of habit rather than any nervousness, letting Kirin know the scientist wasn't alone.
He peeked over the boxes best he could without giving his horns away.
There was someone sitting on a medical exam table, mostly covered in typical leather armor and a battered, short poncho. He could just make out the golden fur with black spots on a swinging tail and rounded feline ears, so he guessed a cheetah tabaxi.
"Uhm, so th-that'll mean you taking your mask off." Vel snapped on a pair of gloves. "Please."
The cheetah very begrudgingly unlatched their bird mask (curious choice for a cat really), carefully slipping it down to set beside their lap.
Kirin's eyes widened incredulously, while the scientist did the same in eager.
He had no face.